« Meritocracy, Social Mobility, Intergenerational Mobility—Posner | Main | How Good is the Fiscal Agreement? Becker »

01/01/2013

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Gertrud Fremling

The small Scandinavian countries should have much more homogeneous gene pools than the US. Cultural values are more homogenous, too. Hence, even in the absence of specific egalitarian policies, you should expect a much higher degree of intergenerational mobility as other factors, including sheer randomness, would play a relatively larger role. The US always looks bad in egalitarianism comparisons but part of that could be due to aggregating over many different groups of people who tend to remain in different geographic, racial or cultural niches.

It would be interesting to see what happened to the US measures when looking at smaller, more homogeneous populations within the US. For instance, would Minnesota, with a largely north-European population, get a high value for intergenerational mobility?


Neilehat

There might be a slight relationship between IQ, socioeconomic standing, education and just plain dumb luck and intergenerational mobility and the aspects of a meritocracy (or do the Gods still figure into the aspects of one's Fortune, Destiny and Lot). But, from what I've seen as of late, the old rule of thumb still applies. And that rule of thumb is, ""Shirt sleeves to "shirt sleeves in three generations". It says a lot for the American ideal of Socioeconomic advancement or the holding onto of ones Socioeconomic standing.

Terry Bennett

The other great flattener of dynastic potential is a progressive tax scheme, which I believe is a major factor in the Scandinavian countries' scores.

ROBERT

“Good policies would recognize that...policies that lead to much greater mobility across generations may make the allocation of human resources considerably less efficient.”

I think this conclusion is logically flawed and politically unfortunate. I think it flawed because it requires assuming both (1) that merit is heritable enough to yield noticeable effects on social mobility and (2) the influence of merit on social mobility strong enough to not be lost in the noise of countervailing factors. And because it overlooks the entirely plausible argument that distributing competence across a greater range of occupations would tend to increase efficiency, not decrease it. (The argument that finance has skimmed the cream off a generation or more of young physicists, mathematicians, and statisticians comes to mind.) I think the conclusion unfortunate because it seems to reprise the old saw that policymakers should be wary of spending money on programs to improve the abilities of the poor because they are biologically unable to benefit from them.

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